2013 Acura TSX Premium Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
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Acura's second-generation TSX continues to be one of the company's most popular models and it's easy to see why. The current TSX was introduced for 2009. It's based on the European and Japanese Domestic Market Honda Accord, making it slightly smaller and more fun to drive than the North American Honda Accord while giving up little in the way of practicality.

It's been a well-received car from the start, with journalists praising it early and often, landing it on Car & Driver's 10 Best list three years in a row and making it a finalist in Motor Trend's 2009 Car of the Year award. In 2011 the TSX received a mid-cycle refresh, and carries over into 2013 unchanged.

I've tested the TSX on a couple of previous occasions, but in both cases the car was a high-end model equipped with the optional V6 engine and automatic transmission. This time around, Acura handed me the keys to a four-cylinder car equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, and it proved to be a refreshingly pure driving experience.

The engine in the entry-level TSX (which is now the Premium trim, since the base trim is no longer offered) is the ubiquitous 2.4-litre 16-valve i-VTEC inline four shared by various Acura and Honda vehicles. In the TSX it produces 201-horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque, and comes mated to either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission feeding power to the front wheels (interestingly it appears the engine loses a couple of lb-ft of torque when hooked up to the automatic).

It should be noted that as well as buying you a couple extra lb-ft of torque and helping contribute to the worldwide "Save the Manuals" movement, selecting the six-speed gets you one of the nicest transmissions out there, a superbly slick-shifting close-ratio box with nice short throws and light, easily modulated clutch action.

The combination of the manual with the four-cylinder also transforms the TSX's personality compared to the V6 automatic, making it a much lighter and friskier car, and thoroughly entertaining to drive (at least, provided you aren't stuck in stop-and-go traffic).

The engine has plenty of giddy-up for daily commuting (0-100 km/h takes about eight seconds with the six-speed) but it's not so powerful that you'll be collecting tickets long before you start enjoying yourself, nor so thirsty that it'll punish you at the pumps (rated city/hwy consumption is 9.9 / 6.8 L/100km, and I used 11.5 L/100km in mostly city driving). Instead it's got just the right amount of performance, economy and exhaust growl to make it rewarding when you drive hard, and relaxing when you just want to cruise.

The suspension does its part too, with a controlled yet comfortable ride, and crisp, confidence-inspiring handling. As expected from a front-drive setup, the TSX serves up predictable understeer near the cornering limits, but with about 120 kg less weight up front I found the four-cylinder manual car to be noticeably better balanced and lighter on its feet than the V6 automatic, and when cornering hard it seemed to hold on a little longer before the electronic nannies stepped in - this despite having slightly smaller wheels (17 inches) compared to V6-equipped cars, which get 18-inch wheels. Four-wheel ABS disc brakes, ventilated up front, provide quick, predictable stops, and electronic brakeforce distribution, tire pressure monitoring, active head restraints and a full array of airbags help keep things safe.

Inside, the Premium trim TSX exhibits a simple, driving-oriented approach to luxury. Up front there are comfortable and supportive power-adjusted perforated leather sports seats (heated, or course) with contrasting white stitching, and there's decent room in the back seat too. Everything is good quality and well-fitted, with a soft-surface dash, soft-touch door uppers, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and cloth-wrapped roof pillars. All the essential equipment is accounted for including seven-speaker AM/FM/CD audio with satellite radio and USB input, Bluetooth connectivity, remote entry, ambient cabin lighting and so on, but there's nothing superfluous or overly complicated. Perhaps the one thing I would've liked to have seen would be proximity entry and pushbutton start, but their absence was hardly a major inconvenience.

Technology trimmed cars get an upgraded 10-speaker audio system, hard drive navigation system and backup camera, but the Technology trim also includes the automatic transmission - so if you want to shift your own gears you'll have to forgo the navigation system.

As tested, the Acura TSX in four-cylinder Premium trim with the manual transmission starts at $35,935 including destination charges. Selecting the automatic transmission adds $1,300 for a total sticker of $37,235, and the Technology trim (which includes the automatic) goes for $40,235. At the top of the range the TSX V6 Technology carries a suggested price of $44,235 (there's also a limited-edition A-Spec version currently available starting at $38,495). With this range of pricing the TSX goes up against premium sport sedans such as the Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS 250, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C Class, but with the possible exception of the Lexus none are as competitive at the entry level as Acura's TSX Premium. It offers a lot of goodies for the money, a winning combination of luxury, sport and value.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sport Sedan, Acura, 2013, TSX, $30,000 - $39,999, $40,000 - $49,999, Midsize,

Organizations: Acura

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